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NHL 09 Preview

Building on the success of a game that has won sports game of the year on as many as 7 different media outlets can be a daunting task, but for the producers in Vancouver working on NHL ’09 they seem to have all their ducks in a row to say the least.

Recently EA invited several members of the community to their Canadian headquarters to show off their most recent build of NHL ’09. And while some may have expected no news to be good news what they ended up showing us made us slash our selves with excitement to see if we were dreaming.

Skill Stick
For the third year in a row on the next gen consoles the skill stick has evolved to include more of a dynamic factor in the offensive and now defensive game. Skilled players have more control this season. These players can try to deke around defenders and goalies alike, but must be aware that sticks and skates are truly and totally interactive this year. Such an example is Cup winner Pavel Datsyuk coming in one on one with a goalie and cutting one way as he drags the puck with one hand on the end of his stick around the goalie for a nice slide in style goal.

Look for big named players to be able to pull off these big moves while your third and fourth line role players cannot and must try to rely on a more dump and chase style. The dump and chase is also easier to perform this year as a new high dump is able to be pulled off when trying to get a puck in deep from the neutral zone over the defenders. This move can also be used when clearing the zone and maybe looking for that homerun loft to a speeding forward on his way to the promise land. Putting the loft on a puck is as easy as hitting the right bumper and then shot stick. Watch out when clearing the zone in desperation though, as this year they have added the fact that clearing the puck over the glass from the defensive zone will result in the delay of game penalty. This is just as has been in the real NHL since hockey returned post lock out.

Don’t worry if your game is based on defense though. This year the skill stick is catered to players trying to stop the puck too. Now with the click of a modifier button and use of the right analog stick you can sweep or poke your hockey stick in every direction. Even a direction that opposes one in which you are facing, thus giving you what EA termed “full stick control”.

You can also customize your controls to suit your style of game. So if you are more of a stick checker versus a body checker you can actually set the right stick up to control the stick by default on defense. This would mean you would hold the modifier button to control checks. This is something that is certain to help to cater to each individual's style.

So now that you can make sweeping movements to break up passes or knock a puck off a stick there is one more major concern. How to stop the dreaded one timer when you are trying to pick up the guy in front of the net? Well don’t worry EA thought of this too.

A much needed move of lifting your opponents stick has been added to combat the potent one timer along with the ability to lift a stick of a puck holder and stealing the puck out from under him. This is used quite often in real life and is something that, while minor, could revolutionize defense.

Of course just like last year with poke checks, there is a down side or a risk / reward to using these tactics too much. Players can now miss while attempting to lift the oppositions stick and accidentally come up and hit the player in the head or face. This will give you a penalty and while there will be no blood seen you could get up to a major called depending on the severity of the incident.

Hitting
As for checking, they promised there are hundreds of new animations for hits. And players that are big hitters, like cover boy Deon Phaneuf, will be able to lay someone out much easier than someone like Sergei Zubov would.

The players on the receiving end will act differently this year too. Sometimes sticking an arm out to brace themselves as they are hit, or even bracing themselves as they fall to the ice or into the boards. This is a much needed addition to help add to the visuals and realism of the game.

Create a Play
One of the things EA was happy to inform us about was how created plays have become deeper this season, and I mean literally. This season they have given players the opportunity to create plays that start in their own end so you can break out of your own zone a certain way.

You can still make your plays start in the neutral zone or just once you gain your opponents blue line, but now you have that option of a swift and deadly breakout as you travel up the ice. Designed plays can involve two or even all five of the players on the ice. The CPU will also be more intuitive as to when to start the play by ensuring that the players are in the right places.

With the new designed plays and the ability to loft a puck deep into the zone you can now play a dump and chase style like never before. This may not sound fun to players who just like the run and gun style, but for simulation players this is a much needed addition. If lesser skilled players chug hard into the zone and pressure the defensemen with his back to the action as he attempts to play the puck in the corner you can hope to hit him or knock him off the puck and cause a turnover for a prime scoring chance. This is just another way to create some offense at times. The producers were sure to explain to us that hitting from behind can result in a penalty however in this game now, as well as running interference on the goalie, so pick your pressure accordingly.

One of the biggest things that NHL has lacked if you have played it over the past few years is the inability to change your defensive pairings separately from your offensive lines. Well this has been rectified. You can now shuffle through your offensive and defensive lines and mix and match on the fly. So this means if you have your third line out there against your opponent’s top line that you can stick that top D unit out there to help with the match up.

New Fighting Engine
In addition to all this we were told and shown that fighting has been reworked. No longer will you have the Rock’em Sock’em style boxing that has been in the games, but rather a square off as you would see in real life. Your fighters circle one another looking for that prime opportunity to land the knock out blow, and as they showed us it can happen with just one or two punches if you cannot dodge quickly enough. Then you are subject to the wrath of your friends making fun as your player turtles on the ice in pain. Clutching the opponent and grabbing has been added as fighting has been re-worked from the ground up. So no more forgetting it is even an option in the game, such as the case was for the last few seasons.

Be A Pro Mode
The newest sensation hitting sports games of late is the first player mode. Fans of Madden, NCAA Football and MLB the Show all know how fun it can be to create your self and go through a career that focuses solely on your created player.

Well NHL is the latest to pull this off, and it looks intriguing to say the least, and something EA is very proud to show us.

Creating your player is going to give you full control, they even told us you can use old style equipment, such as the old Jofa style Gretzky helmet. From there you are drafted by an NHL franchise and thrust into the minor leagues, which is back in full with the AHL license once again. You will be considered top prospect in your organization, but will have to earn you way up to the big club. Starting off on the 3rd line you will be given every opportunity to succeed from that point forward.

Follow the coach’s instructions along with the helpful arrows guiding you on the ice at times and you can gain attribute points to spend in areas of need on your player as he progresses in talent. Disobey orders and find yourself riding the pine or being dealt to another team even. But don’t worry your agent warns you to pick up your play before this would happen.

There are different roles that you can adapt to in this mode. You can create the next superstar sniper like a Pavel Bure or be the next Thomas Holmstrom and park yourself in front of the net looking for that timely redirect or rebound goal. Positioning is a huge part of your success after all.

You are given options of calling for the puck and asking for a line change. Do these at the right time and you will get rewarded, but do it too often or start causing turnovers with your greed and expect to hear it from the coach. Your goal, naturally, is to move up to the 1st line and eventually make it big in the NHL and become a star.

Not feeling the create yourself aspect; well there is also the option to take over a current player in the leagues. Imagine being Sid “The Kid” Crosby every shift of every game and trying to break records or Carey Price and backstop your club to the Cup. Be warned though, being a star player comes with pressure, and you must perform up to the standards or deal with the consequences.

With the all new camera for this mode you can also see where to shoot much better. The camera is fixed behind you when you want it to be, and gives you the best perspective for what it would be like to be on the ice with your team. Look top corner or try to sneak one five hole, seeing the game in a new light will certainly open up some new opportunities for scoring with your virtual self.

One neat thing that was put in to coincide with the new Be A Pro Mode was the inclusion of creating your own hockey card. Now you can keep track of all your stats first hand and get special cards as your progress through the ranks of your career such as Amateur, Rookie and Legend.

Helping this mode be even more of a treat is the ability to go into replays and take screen grabs that can be selected as the photo on your own card. Add that to the new function of being able to upload your favorite video files of your highlights in the game and you can be sure to show the world just what you are made of this season.

Custom Music
The one feature I am most excited about above all others is the new custom music option added to the game this year. If you own a next gen system and have some of your favorite hockey tunes on your hard drive then you can add these songs in each NHL arena for up to 13 different occasions during a game. So if you want to hear Blur playing “Rock and Roll Part II” after a goal the power is yours. Want to annoy your friends and have “Cotton Eyed Joe” blasting during a portion of the game then by all means have at it. When showing off this feature EA even had a little Guns N Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” blaring as the players came down the runway for the pre game intro, nice touch!

Not since ditties were removed from the PC community have we had this much of an option when it comes to music in our games.

Online
Finally, one of the biggest things EA wanted to stress to us was what is new for online play in 2009. This year they took the next progressive step in Online Team Play and made it possible to play with up to 12 different consoles all over the world at the same time, controlling every player on the ice simultaneously. Not a small feat for sure.

Add to this a new league play where you can trade players and have full stat tracking and playoffs and online is looking like the place to be in ’09. Oh and they also added a few more European Leagues for our foreign friends, with real rosters.

Odds and Ends
So it appears EA has been listening when it comes to user feedback. It should be an exciting year on the ice and one like never before. The re-addition of throwback jerseys has made the cut and will be in the final version, so look for your North Stars, Nordiques, and Atlanta Flames to name a few. Add to this a special edition all time team for one Canadian team that we can only assume is Montreal at this point. As they celebrate their centennial in the league you will see old time players without helmets and a special in game addition that EA was pretty hush hush on at this time for the Habs it appears.

Also EA hinted at a huge feature for online play that was revolutionary and has never been done before according to them. They were not budging on this information though, so we will have to wait and see what is up there sleeve on this. One thing is for sure, they know how to give a teaser, but with everything they have already included it should be enough to make fans jump for joy with NHL ’09.


NHL 09 Videos
Member Comments
# 1 mdgoalie37 @ 06/11/08 01:17 PM
"You can also customize your controls to suit your style of game. So if you are more of a stick checker versus a body checker you can actually set the right stick up to control the stick by default on defense. This would mean you would hold the modifier button to control checks. This is something that is certain to help to cater to each individual's style."

I've read like 8 previews and I think this is the first I've heard of this.
 
# 2 mdgoalie37 @ 06/11/08 01:18 PM
"The producers were sure to explain to us that hitting from behind can result in a penalty however in this game now, as well as running interference on the goalie, so pick your pressure accordingly."

First I've heard this too - great preview Patrick...
 
# 3 Ruffy @ 06/11/08 01:42 PM
After just trading in MY NHL 08 yesterday....just wasnt going to play it anymore knowing 09 isnt that far off and having played the game strictly only over 600 ranked games....probably the most I ever played a sports game since NHL 94...

It sounds like EA is doing the right thing and slighty adding tweaks and not trying to re do a game that they finally got right again...

The ability to go retro with the controls is a nice feature too..

Can't wait!

I hope in this one you can make Crosby's head Bleed...

http://gamevideos.com/video/id/5437

 
# 4 Lubey @ 06/11/08 01:46 PM
Can someone clear up for me what "Running interface with the goalie" means?

Also, how will using the right thumbstick to poke and sweep check be different than holding down RB and using the R stick in 08?

I'm sort of confused on those two points.
 
# 5 mercalnd @ 06/11/08 02:53 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lubey
Can someone clear up for me what "Running interface with the goalie" means?
It running interference not interface. The legal way of doing it is bascially parking yourself right in front of him to prevent him from seeing the puck and the play. If you back into him or prevent his free movement in the blue paint with your legs or stick then it become an interference penalty.
 
# 6 thmst30 @ 06/11/08 03:30 PM
How can the same studio that makes this incredible game also make NBA Live? Its night and day.
 
# 7 mdgoalie37 @ 06/11/08 03:40 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by mercalnd
It running interference not interface. The legal way of doing it is bascially parking yourself right in front of him to prevent him from seeing the puck and the play. If you back into him or prevent his free movement in the blue paint with your legs or stick then it become an interference penalty.
Unless you are Tomas Holmstrom who gets called for goalie interference for just standing in the general vicinity of the crease (non-Wings fan BTW)
 
# 8 catcatch22 @ 06/11/08 03:44 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lubey
Can someone clear up for me what "Running interface with the goalie" means?

Also, how will using the right thumbstick to poke and sweep check be different than holding down RB and using the R stick in 08?

I'm sort of confused on those two points.
It won't be, they did it cause it was difficult for several people to hold RB and use the right stick together because it would cause different issues. If anything it should make it easier for guys like me that use the stick more than the body.

It would have been better to just make the left stick be what you use the guide in for natural collisions instead of a button, but I guess people have the need to have a "button" for the auto big hit.
 
# 9 Lubey @ 06/11/08 05:51 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by mercalnd
It running interference not interface. The legal way of doing it is bascially parking yourself right in front of him to prevent him from seeing the puck and the play. If you back into him or prevent his free movement in the blue paint with your legs or stick then it become an interference penalty.
Wow I feel like an idiot.
 
# 10 VanCitySportsGuy @ 06/11/08 08:05 PM
"As they celebrate their centennial in the league you will see old time players without helmets and a special in game addition that EA was pretty hush hush on at this time for the Habs it appears."

Legends are in the game? This must be one of the things EA is holding back. It would be sweet to see HoF'ers like Orr, Messier, Kurri, Coffey, Gretzky, Howe, Richard, Hull, Yzerman, Harvey, Langway, Bossy, etc.. in the game.

I haven't read all the previews but I wonder if EA has put in the option of changing the game clock by whatever minute we want instead of 5/10/20 mins. Also I wonder if goalies like Turco and Brodeur will come out of their net more often to play the puck.
 
# 11 Dalsanto0026 @ 06/11/08 08:25 PM
This game is sounding awesome.
 
# 12 mkharsh33 @ 06/12/08 12:20 AM
so in spite of some of the new positives being put into this game, it looks like we're still years away from a polished product...sigh.
 
# 13 wildhockey19 @ 06/12/08 04:52 PM
There will ALWAYS be money goals in any game you play. Until the day that an "actual" AI is developed, and by that I mean a system that thinks solely for itself and adapts to its surrounding we will all fall victim to the infamous "cheese" goals. The game is just that, a scripted set of code that may have different variations under different circumstances but always to a set limit. The goalie will always react the same way even to different moves. Again, until they solve the almost impossible task of developing a system that would be able to give the goalie the ability to act on his own, your doomed. Sorry to sound like a space cadet, but I am a computer science major so I cant help myself some times! Peace!
 
# 14 Joborule @ 06/12/08 05:37 PM
Good write up man.
 
# 15 Eddie1967 @ 06/12/08 06:35 PM
The part about fighting being rebuilt from the ground up with the circling and turtling sounds awesome. If they could just add separate line changes and more board play, I might just buy 2 hockey games this year.
 
# 16 ohyeahbaby123 @ 06/12/08 07:14 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eddie1967
The part about fighting being rebuilt from the ground up with the circling and turtling sounds awesome. If they could just add separate line changes and more board play, I might just buy 2 hockey games this year.
Separate line changes are in.
 
# 17 Eddie1967 @ 06/12/08 07:48 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by ohyeahbaby123
Separate line changes are in.

Not that I don't believe you but is that in the article?
 
# 18 metallidevils @ 06/12/08 07:59 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eddie1967
Not that I don't believe you but is that in the article?
It was definitely stated somewhere; I think in the dev blog
 
# 19 Flyermania @ 06/12/08 08:02 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eddie1967
Not that I don't believe you but is that in the article?
From Littman's blog entry:

Quote:
NHL 09 Producer Blog
Hi there, David Littman here, producer of NHL 09.

This is my favorite time of year. The weather is nice. The Stanley Cup finals were awesome to watch. And we finally get to talk about our game.

More than any other year, I can honestly say that many of the features in NHL 09 come directly from your (the NHL community) feedback. The two most asked for features were better defensive controls and superstar mode. I don't need to go into those here, since you will be reading about them elsewhere.

As you have heard, Dion Phaneuf is our cover athlete. He is a perfect choice for NHL 09, not just because he loves playing the NHL series, but because he is one of the best young defensemen in the NHL. Taking control of Dion and stepping up on an opponent in the neutral zone is a beautiful thing.

Some things you might not read about over the next couple of weeks are:

- Yes, we are fixing bugs that have been called out in all of the forums, like the dynasty bug where released players ended up back on your roster and:

- The ability to turn off CPU trading in Dynasty

- PS3 locked at 60 FPS

- The bug called fighting

- Oh yeah...less hip checking

- The dump and chase style will be a genuine way to win a game. (The new flip dump will sometimes bounce over the defensemen's stick and get him in all sorts of trouble. Then you can use the lift stick or the new checking system to get the puck back using one of the new forecheck strategies).

- Lower skilled players will have a tougher time deking and scoring than in previous years.

- Did you watch Sydney Crosby protect the puck with one hand on the stick when powering his way to the goal? You can do that too.

- Separate line changes for forwards and d-men (finally)

- We are adding features that will help newcomers to the series. Features like an interactive tutorial and a simplified control scheme. The reason for this is simple. We want to grow the sport of hockey. Hockey has great momentum right now, and we should all be working together to bring new fans to the sport. Hockey is truly a global sport and this game sells very well overseas as well as in NA, so we added new teams from top leagues around the world.

- We will have lots of retro jerseys in the game (Seals, North Stars, etc) and we are doing something even more special with one of the NHL franchises.
 
# 20 meh @ 06/13/08 05:31 AM
If all of these add-ons are implemented without taking away the quality shown in 08 - then wow, this could easily be the big game of the year!

Really looking forward to this one..... problem is, I want it now
 

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